The Detroit Lions let last Sunday’s game slip through their hands with some poor decision making down the stretch. For three and a half quarters of the game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions were the better team. This Sunday, the Lions can’t afford questionable coaching against the Seattle Seahawks, as it’ll be very hard for them to be the better team with the laundry list of injuries going into the game. That’s bad news for the team, but good news for one man: T.J. Hockenson.
Bold prediction of the week: T.J. Hockenson has a career day against Seattle
First impressions count, and T.J. Hockenson made a good one. He opened his career as a Detroit Lion with six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. That was Hockenson’s first and only 100+ yard game as a Detroit Lion, and rarely has he come close to even sniffing that number since. Through three games this season, he only has 82 yards and one touchdown. He’s on the wrong trajectory as he approaches the window to sign a new contract, but Sunday could be the opportunity for him to right the ship.
The Lions will be without Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark Sunday, and Josh Reynolds remains questionable. That leaves the Lions without their two most physical wide receivers and very little to replace them. The candidates to fill the voids are Kalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy, Maurice Alexander, and Quintez Cephus, who stand at 5-foot-8, 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11, and 6-foot-1, respectively. While some of those receiviers, namely Cephus and Kennedy, can play a lot bigger than their size, it’ll be hard for them to be true substitutes for what the Lions are missing Sunday.
Enter T.J. Hockenson. His big frame is good news to offset the size of the backup receivers, allowing Jared Goff a safety net should he need it. While Hockenson missed the last five games in 2021, he was on pace before that for a career high in yardage, constantly making contested catches in tight windows when Jared Goff had nowhere else to go. When St. Brown made his Week 12 emergence, Goff never looked back, and St. Brown became the go-to for Goff’s oft-preferred routes over the middle. With Brown out of the picture, that responsibility reverts to Hockenson.
With D’Andre Swift out on Sunday too, Jared Goff won’t have his usual checkdowns. It really will be up to Hockenson to step up Sunday, both for the sake of his career and for the Lions. If he doesn’t then, both of those will be facing big question marks moving forward.